Recently released economic data paints a very gloomy picture of the current economic climate that we are operating within as we pursue our programme of radical transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation of Gauteng city region’s economy.
Statistics South Africa recently released unemployment stats, which show that unemployment went up to a thirteen year high of 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017. Although the economy created jobs in this period (538 000), this was still not enough to absorb a work force that is growing at roughly 1.7% a year with more people actively looking for jobs than before.
According to the same stats, only 43% of adults are employed and within the 15-24 age group, only 13 out of 100 young people are employed, with millions of youth neither studying nor working. In fact, the unemployment rate amongst youth stood at 54.3% in the first quarter of 2017 and with this being the 41st anniversary of our celebration of the heroic youth of 1976 we dare not rest on our laurels in our quest to end the social and economic marginalisation of young people.
As highlighted by Premier David Makhura in his state of the province address earlier this year our provincial economy has recorded the largest net gain in new jobs since the 2008 global crisis, with 700 000 new jobs created between 2010 and 2016. In fact, since we came into office as the fifth administration in 2014 bi-annual employment has reached 317 000, breaking the ceiling of 300 000. This was achieved despite massive job losses in both the manufacturing and mining sectors and the fact that Gauteng has the largest number of migrants coming into the province looking for economic opportunities each year, so it is in no way a small feat. So since we came into office, we have made significant strides in creating jobs, though we do acknowledge that it is still not yet sufficient to turn the unemployment tide.
Having conducted intensive research and consulted broadly with diverse economic stakeholders, the provincial government of Gauteng has come up with the Gauteng Economic Development Plan (GEDP), which focuses on sector and firm level interventions in order to unlock employment and empowerment opportunities for our people. The GEDP is geared towards growing our economy in a holistic, inclusive, equitable manner and relies on transformative partnerships between government and the private sector in the identified strategic sectors to grow our economy, create jobs and empower historically disadvantaged individuals.
Some of the partnerships that have been established with the private sector as part of the GEDP in order to create jobs include the following:
- A partnership with the capital equipment and machinery sector through the South African Capital Equipment Export Council which will create a minimum of 5000 jobs over the next three years.
- A partnership with Microsoft which will give 1 million young people the opportunity to be trained in digital skills over the next two years, a critical intervention as we head towards the fourth industrial revolution.
- A partnership with the Business Process Outsourcing sector which will facilitate the creation of 20 000 digital jobs for young people over the next three years.
- Our partnership with the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator which will reach 500 000 young people by 2019.
In addition to that, as part of our bias towards historically disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups in our society, we have taken a policy decision as the Gauteng provincial government that 50% of all people employed in our infrastructure projects should be youth, a momentous decision given the massive infrastructure roll out planned for Gauteng until 2019. As a reference point to show how significantly this will affect youth unemployment, we know that between 2013 and 2016 92 000 direct jobs were added to the Gauteng economy just through our infrastructure spend.
So despite the challenges caused by the ratings downgrade and sluggish global and domestic economic growth since the start of our administration in 2014, we have made significant strides in fighting poverty, unemployment and inequality, in transforming our economy, in fighting youth marginalisation and unemployment and giving our people the opportunity to create a better life for themselves. We are however aware that more indeed needs to be done and are confident that through working together, we can move Gauteng city region forward. This is the least that we can do to honour the youth of 1976 and build the kind of equitable, just society that they gave their lives for.
Lebogang Maile MPL, is the Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development.